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The Whole Intimate Mess

In June 2017 I published a short memoir about my experience in Parliament, becoming a mother, and then stepping down when it became too hard to combine my care responsibilities with my career. After leaving Parliament, I set myself a challenge to only read books by women for a year (which turned into two), and this was the starting point for this book.

I’m really excited to share it, thanks to the lovely team at Bridget Williams Books who encouraged me to write it and released it as part of their Texts series of short books by New Zealand writers. You can find out more and order it here.

Fixin’ to Write: Stolen Moments

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my sixth post for the blog, a slice of my beautiful, terrifying, sleep-deprived life with a baby and a big girl.

I am deep into the trenches right now. The baby is eight months old, the big girl four-and-a-half. It’s winter. I don’t leave the house much. I don’t get much sleep. There is no time for reflection, considered thought, planning my writing life. But I am writing. 250 words a day. Whatever comes out. It doesn’t mean anything, doesn’t add up to anything. Not yet anyway. But here’s some from last week.

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Fixin’ to Write: So What Am I?

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my fifth post for the blog, a little meditation on who the “I” is in my writing, something I’ve been trying to figure out lately. It was first published on 19 April 2018.

Illustration of a mountain peak with the words "so what am I?" above it

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

We used to chant this to each other at primary school, whenever someone called us a rude name.

You’re stupid!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

A stupid dick!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

Shut up, you’re a mean, stupid dick!

I know you are, you said you are, so what am I?

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Feature: A Bare Necessity

As time passed, Walker started to enjoy her enforced stillness – a novelty for a parent of two small children.
Robert Kitchen/Fairfax NZ

My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was to pose nude for a life drawing class and write about it. The resulting feature was published online and in Your Weekend magazine on 24 March 2018. Excerpt below and you can read it here.

 

It was a painting by Jacqueline Fahey that finally inspired me to take all my clothes off in a room full of strangers.

Her work Final Domestic Exposé: I Paint Myself depicts the artist nude (body looking much like mine does these days), surrounded by the detritus of her life as an artist and mother – dirty clothes, children, food, gin bottles, medications, paint brushes. I loved it on sight, and I took it as a challenge. If I really thought of my body as beautiful, then why not offer it to artists?

Let them make art from the body of another mother in the middle of the chaos.

The Panel, 7 March 2018

On 7 March 2018 I was a panelist on RNZ’s daily opinion show The Panel, along with Scott Campbell and guest host Megan Whelan. We discussed Trump, North Korea, Auckland’s health system, luck versus talent, debauchery and the law, and more. I used the Panel Says segment to give a shout-out to my local libraries. You can listen to the full show or selected excerpts here.

Review: Casting Off by Elspeth Sandys

This review was first published in Landfall Review Online on 1 March 2018.

Elspeth Sandys has had many names. Born Frances Hilton James in 1948, she became Elspeth Sandilands Somerville on the occasion of her adoption into the prominent Dunedin Somerville clan at the age of nine months. The circumstances of her birth and adoption, and their impact on her childhood, were the subject of the first volume of her memoir, What Lies Beneath, published in 2014. 

The second volume, Casting Off, starts with another name change. With her first marriage in late 1960, Elspeth inexplicably took on not only her husband’s surname, but a new first name as well – Susan. ‘Till recently,’ she writes, ‘I believed this new Christian name was given to me by my young sisters-in-law, Elspeth being too much of a mouthful, but they have assured me they had nothing to do with it. So the question of who bestowed the name on me, and why, remains unanswered. As does the question of why I agreed to it …’

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Fixin’ to Write: An experiment in “found” writing

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my fourth post for the blog, an experiment in “found writing” inspired by Catherine Chidgey’s The Beat of the Pendulum. It was first published on 22 February 2018.

Due to a recent tweak in my insomniac four-year-old’s bedtime routine, I now spend hours each night sitting outside her room waiting for her to fall asleep while answering the questions that run through her head while she winds down: “Mum, what’s a fawn?” “How do you spell poison?”

It’s painful, but at least it affords me some reading time, and as a consequence I’m churning through the books at the moment. One of the latest is The Beat of the Pendulum by Catherine Chidgey.

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Fixin’ to Write: Getting Naked

In July 2017 my writing group started a collective blog on the creative process called Fixin’ to Write. Each week one of us posts about our experiences of finding creativity in everyday life. Here’s my third post for the blog, about my New Year’s resolution to pose nude. It was first published on 28 December 2017.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but in 2018 I would really like to take my clothes off in front of a room full of strangers.

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